Elbert Willett was born in October 1738. He was a son in the large family of Long Island residents Edward and Aletta Clowes Willett. His father was a Quaker schoolmaster and missionary in Jamaica, Queens. His great-grandfather was Thomas Willett - first mayor of New York City. Elbert was the brother of Patriot leader, Marinus Willett.
In November 1763, he married Albany native Catharina Abeel. The marriage seems to have been childless. By the mid-1760s, the couple had settled in Albany and was living near Catharina's family home in the third ward. He belonged to an Albany militia company and served as firemaster in 1770.
Initially, he was a member and officer of St. Peter's Anglican church. Following his marriage, he became an active member of his wife's church - first serving as deacon in 1779. Later, as a member of the Consistory, he served until his death.
Elbert was a saddler by trade and made more general leather products for a number of customers including the city government (48 leather buckets and other utensils in 1763) and Sir William Johnson. Before long, he also was known as a merchant - selling leather products and metal fixtures as well.
In 1786, he was elected assistant alderman for the third ward and city chamberlain or treasurer as well. He served for a number of years. In 1788, the third ward assessment valued his property moderately and noted his border, Christopher Abeel - his wife's nephew. In 1790, his household consisted of five members (perhaps including Christopher Abeel) and a slave. A decade later, he lived with four adult women.
Elbert Willett lost his wife in 1823. He died on February 1, 1828 and was buried from his home at 69 Hudson Street. His will passed probate four days later. He had lived for more than ninety years.
Sources: The life of Elbert Willett is CAP biography number 6906. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. The Willett Family Papers at the New York State Library represent a core collection of family-based resources.
first posted: 1/20/05; updated 10/24/08